Minus the full body of ink art, the clown-colored hair and the wedding dress, of course.
Though Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams and even Sacramento's Kevin Martin lit up the stat sheets in Utah's 127-113 win, Artest stole the show with his, well, enthusiastic and emotional antics that were reminiscent of the old Jazz nemesis.
"He started getting a little whacko out there. He started going crazy," said Jazz forward Matt Harpring, who got tangled up a couple of times with Artest while they defended each other. "You know, that's his game and if that's how he plays, that's how he plays. It's OK, we won the game."
Artest's sideshow ended when got thrown out to a huge, mocking roar by Jazz fans after slapping at Boozer. The refs slapped back at him, giving him his second technical and accompanying automatic ejection with the game still on the line with 4:34 remaining.
In his energetic and sometimes seemingly out-of-control outing, Artest scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. His tip-in late in the third quarter even brought the Kings to within one point at 77-76.
What didn't show up in the boxscore: His repeated first-down-like signals when the refs awarded the Kings the ball; his continual chest-thumpings that he did in good and bad times and often at the crowd; his barking at players and fans; his getting mixed up with Harpring a time or two and then oddly trying to play peacemaker after he helped Harpring bump into Kings guard Kevin Martin; and flailing body parts.
As the game went on, so too did the level of Artest's emotional outbursts. But the Jazz players say they made a point of trying to keep their composure even while the emotions heated up.
"What are you going to do? Let him do his thing and watch him and laugh," Harpring said. "Certainly Ron Artest isn't going to make me do anything stupid."
Boozer knows that Artest can be a physical player and loves competition. Boozer just thinks Artest needs to keep his emotions in check at times. That's something the volatile Sacramento forward can't claim to have done Friday, but Boozer believes the Jazz accomplished.
"We had to be smarter than falling into the trap," Boozer said. "I know he wanted to see one of us make a mistake. We talked about it in the huddle 'We keep the composure, stay focused on what our task is at hand' and we did a good job of that."
"I think he got a little bit frustrated. He's a pretty emotional player, and it kind of got the best of him tonight," added Jazz backup forward Kyle Korver. "This is the most I've ever seen in a game out of him, but I think he was just trying to pump up his team, and looking back, he probably didn't do it the way he wanted."
Sacramento coach Reggie Theus thought at times Artest was simply responding to what he called "smashmouth" play of the Jazz players, and especially Harpring. But he would prefer his guys keep their cool in tough games. Then again, Artest's track record of going berserk isn't exactly an NBA secret.
"At that point, emotions are high. You got to be smart about it. You got to make sure you don't do anything to get yourself kicked out," Theus said. "But, you know what, he's a warrior, he plays hard. The referees watch him closer."
Artest's first technical came after he was fouled by Harpring with 8:49 remaining in the fourth. He got into the Jazz reserve's face and was separated by the refs and teammates. Harpring said he wasn't about to let things get out of control and just kept his hands raised after making the contact.
"He can do whatever he wants," Harpring said. "He's not going to scare me. It'll just ruin his game. If he tried to bully me or slam me that's not going to happen."
As for Artest, he didn't come out of the showers in time to speak with the media. He might have been too busy thumping his chest.
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